Applying for a New License (Drivers 18+) in Kentucky
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Typically, drivers choose to receive a Class D operator's license, which is valid for single motor vehicles and trailers with weights not greater than 26,000 pounds (passenger vehicles, utility vehicles, station wagons, and most panel trucks―vehicles designed to carry fewer than 16 passengers and not placarded for transporting hazardous materials).
The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet's (KYTC) Division of Driver Licensing (DDL) also issues:
- Class E (moped only)
- Class N (Non-resident; see below for details)
NOTE: If you are younger than 18, the graduated licensing law states that you must complete 60 hours of driving practice before applying for your intermediate license, and a driver's education course within one year of obtaining your Class D operator's license.
Younger than 18―You must complete an approved driver's ed program before moving to the full unrestricted licensing phase. The course can be a high school driver’s education course or KYTC-approved driver training course.
18 and Older―You don't have to complete a driver education course, but supplemental training courses such as the one our sponsor offers, are excellent ways to develop your driving skills.
Make sure you know the rules of the road before taking your written and driving tests. You can learn the basics in the Kentucky Driver Manual or when you take a driver's education course. Practice tests are also available to see how you understand the key concepts covered on the written exam.
All licenses are issued at your Circuit Court Clerk's office, and because hours may vary it's best to call ahead and make an appointment if necessary.
Before you head out, make sure you have:
- Your birth certificate.
- Your Social Security card. (If the name on your Social Security card doesn't match the name on your license or permit, you'll need to make the necessary changes with the Social Security Administration.
- Any court documents, marriage licenses, or divorce decrees as proof of any name changes.
- Appropriate fees.
NOTE: If you're younger than 18, a parent or legal guardian must also be present to sign the application for you.
If you've studied the Kentucky Driver Manual and possibly completed a driver's education course, you should have all the knowledge you need to earn a passing score on the written exam. This test covers topics such as identifying traffic signs, safety procedures, and driving under adverse weather conditions. If you fail the permit test, however, you may take it again the next day.
Once issued, permits are valid for one year.
In order to take the driving exam, you must provide a vehicle that is registered. It's a good idea to choose one you are comfortable driving.
If you're on a tight budget, buying a used car can be a good way to save money. However, you'll want to be sure to request a vehicle history report before your purchase to learn of any mechanical issues that could become a problem in the future.
Proof of insurance is required before you will be allowed to take the driving test to earn your license. Driving without proper insurance coverage, even if you're a student driver, is against the law. Visit our Insurance Center for assistance choosing a car insurance policy that best meets your needs.
You don't have to take the driving test if you're a new resident with a valid out-of-state license.
You do have to take the driving test if you're a first-time applicant. The Kentucky State Police will perform all driving skills tests. You can make an appointment with your Circuit Court Clerk's office after you've had your permit for at least 180 days.
Make sure your vehicle is properly insured. Our Insurance Center provides details about the minimum coverage requirements.
Once You Pass
After passing your driving test, you've earned your operator's license. Your license is valid for four years. If you are 21 or older, your license expires 31 days after your birth date. If you are 21 or younger, your license expires 90 days after your 21st birthday.
If You Fail
If you fail the driving skills test, don't worry. You can spend some extra time practicing, then retake the test in one week.
If you're visiting the state and are currently licensed in another country, you may drive in the state for up to one year.
It may be advisable to get an International Driver Permit, issued from your home country. The permit basically translates your license to make it understandable to U.S. officials. Carry both your license and permit with you whenever you're driving.
How to Apply as a Non-Citizen
If you're interested in applying for a Kentucky operator's license, the path you'll take differs according to a variety of factors, including your legal status and your home country. Applicants with a Permanent Resident Card must apply at their Circuit Court Clerk's office. All other applicants must begin the licensing process at a Department of Transportation field office.
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We put a lot of effort into making our content helpful & accurate. Please let us know if you see something that isn't clear or correct; we are here to ease any frustrations you may have while navigating DMV topics. We are not a government agency, please reach out to your local DMV, insurance agent, or respective professional for further assistance on specific situations.